Ajax has gained 3 points on PSV. Erik ten Hag’s team was late to the party against sc Heerenveen on Sunday afternoon, but won by 4-1 in the end. Captain Matthijs de Ligt, Nico Tagliafico, Donny van de Beek and David Neres scored the goals.
‘What if…’ doesn’t count
The road to the Amsterdam ArenA was foggy on Sunday morning. This was fitting to the tail end of this Eredivisie season, which is equally foggy. After PSV’s enormous upset at the hands of Willem II in Tilburg (5-0), things were – despite the enormous defecit against the leader – somewhat exciting. And many fans were probably playing ‘what if’ scenarios in their minds. ‘What if’ simply doesn’t count in real life, or in football. But still…what if Ajax had won against Utrecht and Vitesse. What if….well, it doesn’t count. And it’s still foggy.
What was clear was that Ajax needed to win this afternoon against the number 10 placed team in the Eredivisie. Not only to create a bit of excitement as the competition draws to a close, but for the fans. Eliminated from Europe, the cup, and far behind PSV. Coach Erik ten Hag took rigorous measures for this game against Heerenveen. Captain Joël Veltman was sacrificed and relegated to the bench. The captain’s band was transferred to Matthijs de Ligt.
The young captain came close to scoring the opening goal in the 3rd minute. From a Hakim Ziyech corner, he put Thorsby under such pressure that he sent a header against his own post. In the subsequent attack, Heereveen had an opportunity but the shot went wide.
Play ebbed back and forth. It was a nice, open game. After a beautiful play by Justin Kluivert, who had brought Dumfries to his knees twice in the 19th minute, Huntelaar shot the young left winger'
Big day for Matthijs de Ligt
But it was essential for De Ligt’s big day that he should put the 1-0 score on the board. When he had come up with Ajax on attack, his header in the 31st minute put his team into the lead. They didn’t enjoy this for very long, as Martin sent a searing shot into the goal one minute later, 1-1. After this productive ninety seconds, nothing much else happened until halftime.
Big opportunities Ajax
In the second half, Ajax played to its own strong supporters’ core and this lead to big opportunities soon after. First, Donny van de Beek shot wide, strongly hindered by a Fries player, after good prep work by Neres and Huntelaar. After that, it was Huntelaar who, on a pivot, came close to scoring the 2-1 in the 50th minute but sent his shot onto the crossbar instead. Three minutes later, Van de Beek saw Hansen cleverly save his precise header out of the goal’s mouth.
And finally, the goal came in the 59th minute. A pinball scrimmage preceded it, but once the ball arrived at Nico Tagliafico’s feet, it was a sure thing: 2-1. This was his first Ajax goal.
In the 70th minute, the 3-1 should have appeared on the scoreboard. After a rejected corner by Heerenveen, 3 Ajax forwards stormed onto 1 Heerenveen defender and keeper. The offense finished sloppily and Woudenberg came out of it as the winner.
Van de Beek brings it to 3-1
In the 80th minute, Ten Hag brought Veltman in. Max Wöber retreated to the bench. 8 minutes later, Ajax locked up the game. Ziyech freed up Van de Beek in front of Hansen and this time, his shot didn’t miss: 3-1. In extra time, Neres solo’ed the 4-1 goal. Thus Ajax comes a step closer to PSV, although, with 7 games to go, the 7-point gap is still very large.